Lawyers welcome news that government has no plans to overturn House of Lords decision

Law firm DWF has welcomed news that the government has no plans to change the law to overturn the recent House of Lords’ decision on pleural plaques.

In October 2007 in the case of Rothwell v Chemical & Insulating Co Ltd & Ors, the Law Lords unanimously decided that pleural plaques, which indicate exposure to asbestos but do not cause symptoms, were in themselves insufficient to warrant compensation.

Following the decision the Scottish Parliament announced plans to introduce its own legislation which would override the ruling north of the border and allow compensation claims - a move which could create pressure for a change in the law in England and Wales.

However during a debate in the House of Commons this week, Bridget Prentice, Under-Secretary of State for Justice, said the government at Westminster was of the view that legislation ‘would change the law of negligence so fundamentally that it would not be an appropriate process’.

Ian Macalister, insurance partner with DWF said: “Part of the problem is that any legislation by the Scottish Parliament may give some non-Scottish people the right to claim and impose liabilities on non-Scottish defendants. Such a situation is bound to lead to challenges under the Human Rights Act 1998 and perhaps on jurisdictional grounds as well.

“At the same time Scots would still be unable to pursue claims for plaques caused in England. In cases where people had been exposed to asbestos in both jurisdictions, how would one know in which country the damage had occurred?

“No doubt the Scottish Executive is considering these difficult matters, and it is not surprising that it is taking its time doing so, as the hurdles it faces should not be understated. However it seems clear from Bridget Prentice’s statement that the Rothwell case will continue to determine the issue in England and Wales for some time yet, if not indefinitely.”